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Rathvilly fend off Eire Og in tasty 30 point thriller

Brian O'Donoghue
September 4, 2023

Carlow SFC Round 2

Rahtvilly 0-16

Eire Og 0-14

A ding dong, tactical, classic, Rathvilly v Eire Og affair is what we witnessed on Saturday evening in Netwatch Cullen Park. 

The first half ended 0-8 to 0-7 in favour of Eire Og but the second half ended 0-9 to 0-6 in favour of Rathvilly. 

The difference? The second half performance of Brendan Murphy. The towering midfielder kicked four second half points, the majority from long range and while he didn’t do it all on his own, those four points were crucial. 

Adam McCarron looks like he is the future for Eire Og. He was on it, on Saturday night and it’s very easy to see Eire Og building teams around him as he matures and grows into senior football. 

Rathvilly experimented somewhat in the first half and soon after the throw in, Murphy went to full forward but his teammates only tried to pick him out on two occasions and both attacks were dealt with by the Eire Og defence. 

Eire Og got off the mark with the scoring first with a free from McCarron and Ross Dunphy claimed a mark and converted early on also. Sandwiches between those scores was a Conor Doyle left footed effort after a neat one-two before Diarmuid Ruth with a long ranger and a Liam Gavin free made it 3-2 to Eire Og. 

Conor Doyle won his own free and converted before Cormac Mullins squeezed in a nice point from a very tight angle. It was 4-3 to Eire Og and they would ultimately make it 5-3 through McCarron but his point should have been 6-3 as they had an opportunity when Darragh O’Brien called a mark in an unusual position, 40m out and just 5m in from the sideline in front of the stand.

Perhaps he backed himself from the distance and the angle but a more likely explanation is that the player either thought he was closer in, or felt he had a swarm of defenders gathering. In the end his effort hit the post and Rathvilly cleared. 

Gavin and McCarron exchanged frees and then Eire Og had a golden chance to hit the net. A ball found its way into the hands of Ross Dunphy and he was one on one with Regan Murphy in the goal. The shot was saved by the keeper and McCarron could only put the rebound over the bar. 

Darragh O’Brien fielded a kickout expertly in the 25th minute and he put McCarron in range who raised a white flag. 

Two minutes after that Lee Moore marauded his way up front with real purpose and he curled over a lovely point to give Eire Og a 0-8 to 0-4 lead. It would have been a strong lead to take into half time but there were still three minutes to play.

Brian Murphy who had come into the game for the injured Deering won a free and converted himself. Liam Gavin made it 0-8 to 0-6 from a placed ball in unusual circumstances. Sean Gannon caught the ball from a kick out and called a mark, in taking the mark then, he kicked the ball to a teammate who was less than 13m away. Referee Billy Fanning blew the whistle and awarded a free to Rathvilly which Gavin dispatched. 

Just before the half time whistle Josh Moore, Jamie Byrne and Brendan Murphy began a lovely interlinking move before Murphy spotted the run of Liam Gavin and he slotted the point to leave the minimum between the sides. 0-8 to 0-7 at the break. 

Rathvilly made the changes at half-time. In what was somewhat of an unusual sight in Netwatch Cullen Park, the goalkeeper Regan Murphy was substituted for the experienced Robbie Molloy. While Murphy had made a good save and was holding his own with his kick-outs, it was clear Rathvilly were looking for that extra 10%. Barry-John Molloy came in for Ryan Sibbald but reverted to defence and Kevin Murphy entered the fray in replace of Brian Smith. 

They were inspired changes as the village men hit three points in five minutes. Two of them came inside the first 60 seconds of the restart. Brendan Murphy slotted two from outside 40m with the assistance from Conor Doyle who had caught the ball from throw in, carried forward and fed Murphy. Jake Elliott played a nice one-two and made light of a tight angle and Kevin Murphy and Josh Moore combined before again releasing Brendan to kick his second of the hall.

Colm Hulton stood up to be counted for Eire Og on the resumption of play and he swung a fabulous point off his left foot less than a minute after Murphy’s second. Suddenly it was 0-10 to 0-9 in favour of the men in green and gold. 

Rathvilly added two more points in the 7th and 8th minutes of the second half. A free from Brian Murphy and a left footed swinger from Ed Finnegan. In fairness to Colm Hulton, he was on the end of an Eire Og attack that began with possession from the next kickout and this time it was his right foot that raised a white flag. 

The following eight minutes were scoreless but Eire Og were growing in confidence after Rathvilly went wide twice and both sides introduced more subs. 

McCarron converted two frees in a row to leave just one point between the teams with less than ten minutes if normal time to go. From the kickout of the second free Robbie Molloy found Brendan Murphy who released Liam Gavin who in turn sent Jamie Byrne into the blue grass area and he slotted to finish a lovely move. 

With four to play Eire Og came in search of goals and on this occasion as the ventured inside the 13m line in front of the goals the attack was broken up and Rathvilly began a counter offensive. On the end of it was that man again, Brendan Murphy and it was 0-14 to 0-11.

Eire Og are arguably the most dangerous team to be three points ahead of in any game. We saw how they found the net three times against Old Leighlin the week before and so they came in search of scores, but needed a goal in this round two game. 

Diarmuid Ruth kicked a lovely point in the 29th minute of the second half and now a goal would more or less win it for Eire Og. The sides had been in this predicament on more than one occasion. Seemingly aware of the danger Eire Og possessed the impressive Dara Curran was instrumental in releasing Conor Doyle who for the final time of the evening found Brendan Murphy and he kicked his side three points in front once more. 

Eire Og are never beaten though. You’d want to be in the car listening to the result on the radio before you’d be sure the game is over, and so, they came again. A high ball into the square was contested to the right of the goal and all the defensive bodies had followed it over, the ball spilled and bounced across the square to the on rushing David Dunphy who had noting between him and the net only empty space and somehow, by some weird curse or praise Jesus miracle, depending on your persuasion, the ball flew out to the left and wide. It was a massive let off for Rathvilly. 

Amazingly, Eire Og came again. Another high ball into the square was plucked from the sky by Conor Doyle and a huge amount of bodies swarmed around. Billy Fanning was closest official to it and he blew the whistle for a free in. The alleged technical foul happened in the large rectangle so it was going to give Adam McCarron a potential last kick of the game to win it for Eire Og but he was going to have to squeeze it past 12 Rathvilly men on the line. 

To give him full credit, he struck it as well as he could but Rathvilly hands knocked it over for a one point game. 

When the kickout was soaring through the air we waited for the final whistle, but it didn’t come. The ball broke and suddenly Dara Curran was released down the oak park side by Liam Gavin. Curran made a powerful run toward the O’Hanrahan’s goal and elected to fist a point, the final score of the game. 

This was a brilliant contest to watch. Some exceptional shooting from both sides. A tactical battle. Good defending. Both teams careful in possession. 

Good for the soul, particularly the Rathvilly ones, but Eire Og will have a lot more of a say in this championship yet. 

Rathvilly: Regan Murphy; Kyle Byrne, Dara Curran(0-1), Colin Byrne; Padraig Deering, Josh Moore, Jamie Byrne(0-1): Conor Doyle(0-2), Brendan Murphy(0-4); Ed Finnegan(0-1), Brandon Kelly, Ryan Sibbald; Jake Elliott(0-1), Brian Smith, Liam Gavin(0-4). Subs: Brian Murphy(0-2) for Padraic Deering, Robbie Molloy for Regan Murphy, Barry-John Molloy for Ryan Sibbald, Kevin Murphy for Brian Smith, Robbie Ryan for Kyle Byrne. 

Eire Og: Johnny Furey; Cathal Kelly, Eoghan Byrne, Benny Kavanagh; Lee Moore(0-1), Kelvin Chatten, Shane Buggy; Mark Furey, Diarmuid Ruth(0-2); Cormac Mullins(0-1), Sean Gannon, Darragh O’Brien; Adam McCarron(0-7), Ross Dunphy(0-1), Colm Hulton(0-2). Subs: Reece Denieffe for Cormac Mullins, Josh Brady for Ross Dunphy, David Dunphy for  Mark Behan for Diarmuid Ruth (blood), David Dunphy for Colm Hulton. 

Referee: Billy Fanning (Ballon)